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Bookmakers count cost of Cheltenham.

LADBROKES said it suffered the worst Cheltenham Festival in "living memory" and warned it would also take a PS3m hit if Leicester City win the Premier League.

The group - planning a PS2.3bn merger with rival Coral - became the latest to reveal the impact of a string of unfavourable results for bookies as it blamed the Cheltenham races for taking the shine off its first quarter performance.

It also revealed a PS3m liability on the Premier League if Leicester win, despite a significant number of punters cashing out bets already.

The group said rivals "abandoned bookmaking principles" at Cheltenham, offering bets at levels that did not make business sense.

William Hill warned over profits last month after describing the Cheltenham results as its "worst" in recent history.

Jim Mullen, chief executive of Ladbrokes, said: "At Cheltenham we were reminded of the intense competition, with offers and pricing at levels which, in our view, abandoned bookmaking principles.

"We competed hard but refused to pursue unsustainable strategies and our stance remains we will compete where we know we can get the right returns from the right customers."

He said it was an "encouraging" start to the year in spite of Cheltenham and said the group was on track with full-year expectations.

Shares rose 4% as first quarter trading came in better than expected, with net revenues jumping 10.6% year-on-year, while UK retail net revenue rose 4.1% and digital revenue surged by 36.5%.

Mr Mullen said the 33/1 Grand National winner, Rule The World, delivered a "welcome contrast" to Cheltenham.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 22, 2016
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